Sometimes parenting can feel like it’s all about the rules — don’t watch too much TV, get to bed on time, no sugar. And while there’s certainly benefits to creating and sticking to a routine, The Wall Street Journal reports that studies show breaking the rules every once in a while can be a good thing, too. According to the article, it can help children understand flexibility, develop reasoning skills and exercise self control.

With back-to-school behind us we’ve settled into the new routine that will take us through the school year… which sounds great to parents, but maybe not so great to kids. Now’s the perfect time to freshen things up and have a little fun to cure the school-year blues.

To help you set the boundaries for breaking boundaries, The Wall Street Journal’s article, Why You Should Let Your Children Break the Rules Sometimes gives a few helpful guidelines:

Make It Intentional

Don’t break the rules just because you don’t feel like having a fight. Make sure your child knows that this break in routine was planned ahead of time. Even if you decide to make it a surprise, tell them a few hours before or explain that this was something you were planning.

Make It Special

Making your break in routine seem like an occasion will help your child understand this as a one-time event, rather than creating an all-the-time expectation. A little effort like adding special props or decorations will help set the vibe of the special moment.

Make It about Your Time Together

As Pediatrician Dr. Claudia Gold puts it, “Sometimes it’s not about the candy,… but about needing the undivided attention of a parent.” Basing breaking the rules on spending time together, rather than just the treat, makes it all the more fun and puts the focus on bonding.

Here are some of our favorite ways to break the rules with our kiddos:

Order Take-Out

Is there a special restaurant they’ve been asking to try, or are you wanting to introduce your kids to a new cuisine? Let them help you order from the menu and choose a special place to eat (a.k.a. not in the dining room). How about a picnic on a blanket in the backyard?

Postpone Bedtime

Pick a Friday or Saturday when there won’t be an early-morning wake up call for school the next day, so you’re in the clear to stay up late and spend more time together. Throw all the couch pillows on the floor and watch a movie past bedtime with popcorn and candy. These adorable popcorn boxes will help set the scene. (They’ll probably be asleep before the credits roll).

Dessert Before Dinner

How about bringing out all the toppings and having a sunset ice cream party? Let the kids craft their own creations with anything from fruit to sprinkles. You can even help them make their own ice cream. Start a bit earlier than your actual dinner time so that you can serve something light and healthy like a salad a couple hours later. We bet they won’t complain about eating their veggies this time.

Get Messy

Throw away your usual tidy habits and get your hands dirty with an art project. Try this DYI slime recipe or throw down a big piece of craft paper and let your kids paint with pretty much anything but brushes. The only rule here is to look for a non-toxic paint like this one.